Review | Feature Writing
Bean Hollow on Main Street in historic Ellicott City, Md., offers visitors the façade of a quaint atmosphere in which to enjoy a cup of coffee and conversation; however, the small space, lacking service and subpar fare leave much to be desired.
Bean Hollow is housed in an old-fashioned structure. The names of the original tenants, Easton and Sons, is still visible on the building’s front, according to Ellicott City Patch. Red cobblestones line the pavement in front of the building. Bean Hollow’s vintage building complements Main Street’s local charm.
While it can be difficult to find street parking in downtown Ellicott City, Md., I parked in one of the many free parking lots just off Main Street. The parking lots always have at least a few free spots and are just a short walk to the stores and restaurants. I walked less than a minute to get to Bean Hollow’s front steps.
When I first walked into Bean Hollow late Saturday morning, the slow-moving line was almost out the door. Most tables were full. The small space suffocated me. Fortunately, the smell of coffee filled the air, making the atmosphere less stifling. The staff rushed around behind the counter, preparing breakfast sandwiches and beverages. When a staff member had a free moment, he or she hurriedly wrote down the next customer’s order.
As I waited in line, I contemplated the displays of fresh baked goods. I was glad to have the time to decide between the arrays of massive, homemade muffins. I was torn between ordering one of the delicious looking muffins and ordering from the list of bagels and breakfast sandwiches written on a chalkboard; another chalkboard listed the specialty beverages for the month.
The counter was lined with cases of homemade biscotti, cakes, pastries and chocolate-covered pretzels; wrapped organic chocolate bars and bagged expresso beans also sat on the counter. There were no prices listed for any of the displayed goods, which left me enticed, but confused.
When it was my turn to order, my indecisiveness led me to choose both a zucchini-nut muffin and a whole-grain bagel with peanut butter; I ordered a sausage, egg and cheese sandwich on an everything bagel with a side of cream cheese for my boyfriend, who was holding our table.
The prices were not listed for the muffins; a bagel with peanut butter was $2.60, and a sausage, egg and cheese bagel was $3.50. With the unknown costs of extra cream cheese and my muffin, the total came to $13. The cheapest breakfast item on the menu was a bagel with butter for $2.
I sat at a little square table with my boyfriend, waiting for our food. I surveyed the patrons who were chatting with one another or reading books in solitude. Canvas art made from coffee bags adorned the walls. The chairs were all the same, with coffee-cup logos carved out of the backs. However, the tables were all different shapes and sizes, some of them looking as if they had come from antique stores. A few patrons sat at an island on bar-top chairs.
My muffin was delivered first, warmed as requested. It was delivered with a fork but no knife. The staff member scurried away before I could request a knife. Then came the bagel and breakfast sandwich. My boyfriend did not get his side of cream cheese. When I opened my bagel, each half was barely dabbed with peanut butter. When we finally got the attention of another staff member, we asked for more peanut butter and the missing side of cream cheese. The staff member was very flustered and confused, but eventually returned with what we had asked; to the staff member’s credit, he brought knives and napkins without us asking.
My peanut butter had a small hair in it, but I thought it too troublesome to request more, so I removed it and spread the peanut butter onto my bagel. Finally given the chance to eat my bagel, I bit down on a hard rock resembling the texture and taste of cardboard. I pushed the bagel to the side and devoured my muffin, which was delicious. My boyfriend was content with his sandwich. After taking a bite of my bagel, he agreed that his everything bagel was much better than my whole-grain bagel.
We had originally chosen not to order coffee, but as we ate, decided we wanted a cup. My boyfriend waited in the long line for a good 5 minutes before deciding to forgo the wait and ask a passing staff member for the coffee instead. We were quickly brought a mug of coffee after handing the staff member money. A cup of plain coffee — the cheapest beverage on the menu — was $2.50, whereas the specialty beverages ran upwards of $4. I took a sip from the steaming, ceramic mug and was again disappointed. The coffee was bitter and weak. This was not what I expected from a coffee shop boasting fair-trade coffee with the beans roasted in the store. I pushed the mug over to my boyfriend for him to finish.
After I finished my muffin — the only good thing I experienced at Bean Hollow — I was itching to leave the confining coffee shop. I told my boyfriend that Bean Hollow is in need of some competition. I would rather see a Starbucks amidst the local shops and restaurants lining Main Street. In fact, after having only taken two sips of my weak coffee, we drove to Starbucks on our way home. If Bean Hollow can increase the quality of its bagels, coffee and service to match the quality of its homemade muffins, I will be back in the long line.
Address: 8059 Main St., Ellicott City, Md., 21043
Hours of operation: Monday to Friday; 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday; 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday; 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.